NBA Draft Winners, Losers: It was a good night in Philadelphia, Minnesota

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Let’s be honest, judging the winners and losers hours after the draft is throwing darts at a board. There are picks and moves we think are smart that turn out to fall flat, and there are picks that are smart we don’t see coming. This year, a lot of people around the league thought that someone in this draft between picks five and 12 would turn out to be a stud — they all have potential and flaws, but who will work and be able to fill in the holes in their game? It’s too early to know.

That doesn’t stop us from making our projections.

Here ar our 2017 NBA Draft winners and losers.

WINNERS:

The Minnesota Timberwolves. When news of them pushing for a Jimmy Butler trade came up, I thought it foolish to give up a lot of quality pieces for a guy not on the timeline with Karl-Anthony Towns. However, this deal was a good one. Minnesota got Butler and the No. 16 pick (Justin Patton) for the No. 7 pick (Lauri Markkanen), Zach LaVine (an athletic two guard coming off an ACL injury), and Kris Dunn (who was unimpressive as a rookie, but maybe bounces back). This is a great deal giving the Timberwolves both another strong defender, someone who knows Tom Thibodeau’s system, and a professional locker room leader. Minnesota now starts Ricky Rubio, Butler, Andrew Wiggins, and Towns, and they look like a playoff team next season.

The Philadelphia 76ers. Unlike a certain GM in Boston, Bryan Colangelo and the Sixers were willing to push their chips into the middle of the table to get their three stars. Now they have it after trading for the No. 1 pick (at a fairly high cost, but if you have the chips this is what they are for). Markelle Fultz was taken with the top pick to go with Ben Simmons (last year’s No. 1) and Joel Embiid. Add in quality players around them like Dario Saric and Robert Covington, and the Sixers potentially have a foundation for greatness. now they just need to keep everyone healthy for a season.

The Sacramento Kings. It seems weird to type this, but they nailed this draft. They got their point guard of the future in De'Aaron Fox (who now gets to go up against Lonzo Ball four times a season — that’s going to be fun). They traded out of the No. 10 pick to get the No. 15 and 20, and they got Justin Jackson and Harry Giles. I’m higher on Jackson than most, but he certainly should be an NBA rotation player. And Giles, if healthy and anywhere near back to form, could be the steal of this draft. Frank Mason was a solid second round get. The Kings were a smart, mature franchise for a night. We’ll see if this is a trend.

Golden State Warriors. They didn’t have a pick in this draft, but they bought one early in the second round to land Jordan Bell (Long Beach Poly shout out). He showed in the NCAA tournament against Kansas he showed how he is a fierce defender of multiple positions (and he did the same at the combine). He’s athletic, has an NBA body, but he can score a little around the basket or from farther out if left wide open — and on the Warriors he’ll be left wide open. Bell is a nice player but this is a perfect fit.

LOSERS:

The Chicago Bulls. Management deciding it couldn’t build around Jimmy Butler and it was time to move on to a real rebuild is completely legitimate — but then you’ve got to get more back for an All-NBA player who is elite on both ends of the court. Maybe Lauri Markkanen is more than just a stretch four, hopefully, Zach LaVine fully recovers from his ACL injury, and Kris Dunn can’t be a bad as he looked last year — and that’s still not enough. Butler had time left on his contract, there was no rush to get this done, yet the Bulls pulled the trigger on a sub-par package that slows those rebuilding efforts. It was not pretty in the Windy City.

Boston Celtics fans. They were teased all day with dreams of Kristaps Porzingis, or Butler, or Paul George, and in the end they got Jayson Tatum. I like the Celtics’ picks, I think Semi Ojeleye could be a steal in the second round. But all day long Celtics fans were told of big dreams, none of which yet came to pass and Danny Ainge continues to hold on to his chips. Someday he’ll make a move. Probably. But that day is not today.

LeBron James’ voting rights group converting arenas into polling places

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ATLANTA (AP) — If basketball icon LeBron James gets his way, NBA arenas and other sports venues around the country will be mega polling sites for the November general election.

James and his voting rights group, formed this spring with other black athletes and entertainers, are joining with other professional basketball leaders and Michigan’s top elections official to push for mega voting sites to accommodate in-person balloting amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

More Than A Vote, the James organization dedicated to maximizing Black turnout in November, shared its plans with The Associated Press on Wednesday after the Detroit Pistons became the second NBA franchise to announce plans to use its arena for voting later this year. In Georgia, Fulton County elections officials this week approved the Atlanta Hawks’ proposal to use State Farm Arena as a polling site. Plans call for the arena to serve as a countywide early voting site ahead of Election Day.

The idea, which comes after Kentucky used large facilities in its June 23 primary, is to use large spaces that allow for in-person voting while still enforcing social distancing guidelines. It also underscores the attention on the mechanics of voting amid the pandemic, with the intensity already reflected in both President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden warning that state and local officials have the power to “corrupt” the election.

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson called her “partnership” with the Pistons an “blueprint for other teams and leagues seeking to advance our common goal of protecting access to the vote for all.”

Lloyd Pierce, head coach of the Atlanta Hawks, said the arrangement in his city ensures “high turnout” in a safe environment. Benson, Pierce and David Fizdale, former New York Knicks head coach, will advise NBA franchises and arena management entities around the country on how to replicate the existing deals.

The Milwaukee Bucks also confirmed they are willing to use their home arena as a voting site in the most populous city in the key battleground of Wisconsin.

The coordinated push is a turnabout, of sorts, in the often-partisan jousting over voting procedures.

Some Democrats panned Kentucky elections officials for limiting in-person June primary voting in the state’s two most populous counties to Louisville’s Exposition Center and the University of Kentucky football stadium in Lexington. Voting rights advocates argued in federal court that the plan, part of culling voting sites statewide amid coronavirus concerns, would harm minority voters.

A federal judge rejected their claims, and voting proceeded without the melee that some advocates had forecast.

Now, Benson, a Democrat, is pushing the arena model not as an example of potential voter suppression, but a way to fight it. “One of our greatest challenges in protecting voters’ access to democracy this November is identifying accessible locations where citizens can safely vote in person,” she said.

Amid COVID, that could outweigh potential logistical difficulties of large sites. Lines for such venues can still be long — just as with normal polling locations — as was seen in Lexington at some points on primary day. Voters also could face traffic jams or public transit hiccups given the number of people involved. General elections also have considerably larger turnout than primaries.

Nonetheless, there’s a growing bipartisan push for large-venue voting. NFL executive Scott Pioli last week presented the National Association of Secretaries of State a plan for widespread use of professional and college sports facilities.

James’ group is officially nonpartisan. But the NBA star has been open about its emphasis on the Black community, where Trump faces intense opposition for his white identity politics. James has not endorsed Biden, but he endorsed Hillary Clinton over Trump in 2016.

In Milwaukee, meanwhile, the Bucks owners, the Lasry family, are major Democratic Party donors. Bucks executive Alex Lasry helped lead the effort that landed the Democratic National Convention in the city.

Missouri man freed from prison with help from WNBA’s Moore

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A Missouri man was freed from prison Wednesday after a county prosecutor declined to retry his case, punctuating years of work by WNBA star Maya Moore and other supporters who argued he was falsely convicted of burglary and assault charges.

Moore was on hand when Jonathan Irons, 40, walked out of the Jefferson City Correctional Center. She clapped as Irons approached a group of people waiting for his release. She then dropped to her knees at one point before joining a group hug around Irons.

He had been serving a 50-year prison sentence stemming from the non-fatal shooting of a homeowner in the St. Louis area when Irons was 16. But a judge threw out his convictions in March, citing a series of problems with the case, including a fingerprint report that had not been turned over to Irons’ defense team, according to The New York Times.

The Missouri attorney general’s office unsuccessfully appealed the judge’s decision, and the lead prosecutor in St. Charles County decided against a retrial.

Moore and Irons became friends after meeting through prison ministry, according to the Times. The 31-year-old Moore, a Jefferson City, Missouri, native who starred at UConn before helping lead Minnesota to four WNBA titles, put her career on hold last season to help Irons.

Moore said in January she planned to sit out a second season and miss the Tokyo Olympics. After Irons’ convictions were thrown out in March, she told the AP her plans hadn’t changed.

“’My decision to take another year was bigger than this case,” she said at the time. “But obviously this case was in the forefront of my mind. I’m looking forward when this is done to finally getting some rest and time with my family.”

Adam Silver: Restart broadcasts may need delay to keep cussing off air

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NBA players trash talk and swear more during a game than a Samuel L. Jackson character.

That’s not exactly insider knowledge. However, most of what is said is covered up by the ambient crowd noise and in-arena music at a traditional game. Nobody at home can hear Patrick Beverley‘s stream of consciousness.

But what is going to happen at the NBA’s restart in Orlando? With no crowds and less noise, and courtside microphones can pick up everything. Including language some fans may not want to be brought into their homes.

This is why the league many need a broadcast delay — similar to the seven-second delay used on some live broadcasts — so it can drop any offensive language, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said at the Time 100 interview.

“I think often players, they understand when they’re on the floor, they’re saying certain things to each other because it’s so loud in the arena, they know a lot of it is not being picked up. They may have to adapt their language a little bit knowing what they say will likely be picked up by microphones and in all seriousness, we may need to put a little bit of a delay.”

One solution would be to have a live stream available to fans where nothing is dropped. There are those of us — hard-core NBA fans — who want to hear the trash talk, want to listen to the coaches call out the play as the defenders call out what is coming and talk about set picks, etc. We all what to hear what LeBron James is going to say to J.R. Smith on the court. That should be available to fans, along with the video game look and other customizable streams.

The league may have fan’s faces on video boards around the court and music pumped in, but this is just not going to look and feel the same. There may need to be a delay to keep some of the language off the air (that happens at sporting events anyway), but it would be fun to give the viewers the option, as ESPN did with The Last Dance.

Report: Rockets signing Luc Mbah a Moute

Rockets forward Luc Mbah a Moute
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Rockets forward Thabo Sefolosha is sitting out the NBA’s resumption at Disney World.

Enter Luc Mbah a Moute.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

Like Sefolosha, Mbah a Moute is a versatile defensive forward who can make open 3-pointers and fits well into Houston’s system.

In theory.

Mbah a Moute, who played well for the Rockets in 2017-18, looked like a major loss when he left for the Clippers in 2018. But he has struggled to stay healthy. He hasn’t played in the NBA since October 2018. Houston worked out the 33-year-old in March – and didn’t sign him. That’s telling.

Expect Mbah a Moute to fall behind Robert Covington, P.J. Tucker, Jeff Green, DeMarre Carroll and Danuel House on the Rockets’ depth chart. It’d be a good outcome for Houston if Mbah a Moute helps in spot minutes.

But if Mbah a Moute proves to be effective in a Rockets uniform, that’d at least look quite natural. We’ve seen it before.